PIGB: Senate Has Done Its Bit, Saraki Tells Buhari

Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday, said the upper legislative chamber has done its bit see to the fulfillment of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).

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Saraki, who spoke at the 24th Session of the Nigerian Economic Summit, organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), lamented that the fight to sanitise the sector is so selective.

Emphasizing that such bill must be seen as national priority, Saraki maintained that the National Assembly would put pressure on the executive to assent to the Bill being sponsored by the legislative arm.

“The PIGB should have been an executive bill. Unfortunately, it was not. However, we took the responsibility to drive that bill to a place that has never been achieved before. A lot of people felt we couldn’t do it, but we showed them we had the political will and the commitment to do it. Our intention is make the petroleum sector more transparent and accountable for more efficient performance.

“Right now, the fight to sanitise the sector is so selective. However, if it is transparent, and you start from your source, there would be less leakage down the line. We are spending over $3.6 billon on petroleum subsidy. Apart from the National Assembly, which anti corruption agency is looking at that?

“There must be a systematic, transparent approach. If we can make the petroleum sector to be more efficient — which accounts for a large percentage of revenue — government would be more efficient,” Saraki said.

It would be recalled that the PIGB, which seeks to provide for the governance and institutional framework of the petroleum industry, was passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.

Unfortunately, Buhari declined assent to the Bill.

On Wednesday, August 29, 2018, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, identified the provision of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill permitting the Petroleum Regulatory Commission to retain as much as 10 percent of the revenue generated as one of the reasons Buhari declined assent to the Bill.

He said the President’s position was that the provision unduly increased the funds accruing to the commission to the detriment of the revenue available to the federal, state and local governments as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Enang, who made the clarification in a statement made available to journalists, said while it was true that the President has declined his assent to the bill, the reasons being adduced in the media for the decision were not true.

The presidential aide said although it was unconventional to disclose the content of Executive’s communication to the Legislature before it is read on the floor of the National Assembly, he took the liberty to make the clarification because of the reports.

Enang said, “By presidential communication of July 29, 2018 (one month ago) addressed to the Senate and House of Representatives, Mr. President did communicate decline of assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill 2018 for constitutional and legal reasons stated therein.

“By convention, it is inappropriate to speak on the content of Executive communication addressed to the Legislature until same has been read on the floor in plenary.

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“But I plead for the understanding of the legislature that due to the misrepresentations in the public domain and apparent deliberate blackmail, which, if not promptly addressed, may set both the executive and the legislature against the public and even the international investment community, this be excused.

“None of the reasons for withholding Assent by Mr. President adduced by the media is true.

“In deference to the National Assembly, I please state very limited of the rationale communicated to the legislature, to wit: that the provision of the Bill permitting the Petroleum Regulatory Commission to retain as much as 10% of the revenue generated unduly increases the funds accruing to the Petroleum Regulatory Commission to the detriment of the revenue available to the federal, states, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and local governments in the country.

“Expanding the scope of Petroleum Equalisation Fund and some provisions in divergence from this administration’s policy and indeed conflicting provisions on independent petroleum equalisation fund.

“Some legislative drafting concerns, which, if assented to in the form presented, will create ambiguity and conflict in interpretation. Other issues therein contained.

“May this, please, answer some of the issues raised until the communication is read on the floor,” Enang said.

The PIGB, which is the first part of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to be passed by the National Assembly, imposes a five percent fuel levy on fuel sold across the country to be used to finance the Petroleum Equalisation Fund.

It also seeks to unbundle the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and provide for the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Incorporated, Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Nigerian Petroleum Assets Management Company and National Petroleum Company.

After several failed attempts to pass a law to regulate the country’s petroleum industry, the Senate had in May 2017 passed the PIGB.

However, it wasn’t until January 2018, that the House of Representatives passed the bill, paving way for the passage of the harmonised version on Wednesday.

In January, after the House of Representatives passed the Bill, Saraki hailed the move as one that represents a historic milestone for the country.

He added that the Bill, when signed into law, would modernise the petroleum industry and overhaul the system to create a conducive business environment for petroleum industry operations.

“The PIGB will also promote openness and transparency in the industry — by clarifying the rules, processes, and procedures that govern the oil and gas sector,” he said in a video post on Facebook.

“This should eliminate, or at worse, reduce corruption significantly and make the sector more efficient and more productive. Nigerians should know that the PIGB, once it becomes law, will help alleviate those issues that lead to scarcity, such as the limited supply of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS); the poor import planning schedule that leads to fuel importation constraints; the corruption, diversion and smuggling — that leads to artificial scarcity; and the absence of deregulation in the sector,” he added.

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